Chess team comes up short in Collegiate Super Finals

From left to right: Saksham Rautela, Koustav Chatterjee and Karolis Juksta.

The UTD Chess Team flatlined in the 2023 Texas Collegiate Super Finals, placing fourth and fifth amongst six teams on the Sept. 16 and 17 competitions in Brownsville, Texas.

The Texas Collegiate Super Finals is one of the biggest collegiate tournaments in Texas; this year’s tournament was an extension of the Feb. 25, 2023 Southwest Collegiate Chess Championship, where the UTD chess team placed first and second. As a result of the February tournament the UTD chess team qualified to play in the Super Finals. The UTD chess team split into two teams – UTD A and UTD B – with initial rankings of first and second, respectively. However, after the four-round tournament, UTD A placed No. 5 overall, and UTD B placed No. 4. Sophomore and international master Saksham Rautela said that the addition of two new players was a key part of the loss; a lack of familiarity with the new members’ playing styles created confusion on where to place them and made strategizing difficult.

UTD Team A consisted of four grandmasters, or GMs: newcomer Koustav Chatterjee, Ivan Schitco, David Brodsky and newcomer Balaji Daggupati. Team B included one GM — Rahul Peddi — and four international masters: IMs Brian Escalante, Andre Macovei, Karolis Juksta and Saksham Rautela. GM Chatterjee played as first board and said that their result did not match up with previous tournaments.

“I honestly think we underperformed significantly in this tournament … I would expect us to finish at least first or second,” Chatterjee said.

UTD placed first and second in last year’s Collegiate Super Finals, but as chess players from University of Rio Grande and Texas Tech continued to improve, the competition became more difficult and resulted in their failure to maintain the lead.

“Texas Tech [A] just dominated and won all four of their matches very convincingly,” Juksta said. “Leaving, I would say, minimal chances to opponents.”

With the addition of new members to the UTD Chess Team, there was an adjustment period to acclimate to the university’s competitive environment and the tournament system. However, Chatterjee said the team is confident that with more practice, they will excel in upcoming tournaments.

“This year we weren’t really familiar with the player’s playing style … we weren’t sure about which players should be preferable at which board,” Rautela said.

Chatterjee, Rautela and Juksta said that Texas Tech was the deserving champion for the Super Finals, as they were in good shape and had a well-structured team.

“They played a lot better chess and they are truly the deserving winners … same goes for UTRGV as well … they were again a good team playing good chess,” Rautela said.

Chatterjee said that coach Julio Sadorra gave a pep-talk and motivated them to do better in upcoming tournaments. Juksta believes the team should push through the losses and continue to support and motivate each other as they build their team structure.

“One game matters a lot [for an individual], but it doesn’t show the [team’s] result of the tournament,” Juksta said.

The team said they will use the results from the Texas Collegiate Super Finals to continue to learn from their mistakes and perform better in the future.

“We are very much capable of winning not just the Southwest Collegiate tournament but also the Pan-Ams, and we have a very strong squad,” Chatterjee said.

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